Cubs

Jason Hammel's brilliance leads Cubs over Rangers

Jason Hammel's brilliance leads Cubs over Rangers

Jason Hammel had worked all offseason with Saturday in mind.

After fading in the second half each of the past two seasons, Hammel shed some weight over the winter and came back determined to stay consistent and effective throughout the entire season.

The veteran right-hander got off to a great start in that regard in his first post All-Star Break outing Saturday, shutting down the Texas Rangers in a 3-1 Cubs victory in front of 41,346 fans at Wrigley Field.

Hammel allowed only one run (which scored on a wide throw from Anthony Rizzo on Elvis Andrus' infield single in the second inning) on three hits and a walk, striking out seven. He went six innings to lower his season ERA to 3.34 and improve his record to 8-5.

Last season, Hammel posted a 2.86 ERA in the first half, but followed that up with a 5.10 mark after the All-Star Break. In 2014, his season was split into a 3.01 first-half ERA and a 4.31 second-half mark.

But after Saturday's game, Hammel didn't want to make too much about his second-half fades, preferring to start a new chapter and leave the past in the past.

"I just go a game at a time," he said. "I'm not even thinking about it. I knew that question was going to come up. As long as we want to focus on it, we can talk about it.

"But I'm just going game-by-game, pitch-by-pitch, trusting the routine that I've put together with some help. Just trying to come out and start off on a good foot."

The Cubs have now allowed just one run and eight hits in 18 innings to the American League's best team to start the second half after the pitching staff slumped badly prior to the break.

[SHOP: Grab your own Cubs All-Star Game gear]

Rizzo drove home the Cubs' first two runs on a two-out double in the third off Rangers starter Yu Darvish. 

Darvish made his return off the disabled list and struck out nine Cubs, but lasted only 4.1 innings as he was limited to 90 pitches.

"Darvish, my god," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "You can just see when he's well. I've seen it before. It's beyond electric stuff, what he's got."

Matt Szczur drove in the Cubs' third and final run of the game with a pinch-hit single up the middle in the sixth.

It was the second straight day with an RBI pinch-hit for Szczur, who ranks third in the majors with 10 pinch hits.

"Matty coming off the bench, being aggressive and getting another big hit," Maddon said. "That was a big moment, too, to give us a little bit of breathing room."

Adam Warren, Travis Wood and Hector Rondon shut the door for Hammel and the Cubs, with Rondon picking up his 15th save in the process.

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist won't win the Comeback Player of the Year award this winter, but maybe he can take home a Grammy for Best New Artist?

The Cubs veteran infielder/outfielder posted a hilarious video on his Instagram Wednesday night showcasing how he's been spending October after the Cubs were unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs after on the third day of the month.

It's a fantastic music video of Zobrist lip-syncing to Mumford & Sons' "I Will Wait" while he nearly knocks the TV off the wall of his home by swinging the bat indoors pretending to hit off Clayton Kershaw and frolicking around a field that looks shockingly similar to Hershel's farm from the second season of "The Walking Dead":

View this post on Instagram

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year.... I will wait for you....

A post shared by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on

Zobrist also posted a lengthy caption on his perspective on the Cubs' disappointing end to the season:

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) 
Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not
Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. 
I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. 
What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. 
To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year....
I will wait for you....

Come for the Zobrist lip sync, but stay for the 37-year-old using a bat as a guitar while wearing a sleeveless shirt and rocking an old-timey top hat.

A year ago, Zobrist completely reshaped his offseason workout plan after three straight years of playing deep into October. It appears he's added another new trick to his winter workout — hopping over fences even though there is a clear opening just a foot away.

Hey, whatever works...

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

1012_manny_machado.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

Did Manny Machado’s value take a hit at all after he openly admitted hustling isn’t his “cup of tea”? Our Cubs team (David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jeff Nelson) debate that, plus the potential fit of Machado or Bryce Harper for the 2019 Cubs and beyond.

[MORE: The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason]

The crew also runs down the top items on the Cubs’ offseason wish list – ranging from bullpen help to infield depth to a set leadoff hitter – in what may be the most impactful winter in Theo Epstein’s tenure in Chicago.

Listen to the podcast here or via the embedded player below: